Book Review: Revenge by Yōko Ogawa

“How old is he?” … “Six. He’ll always be six. He’s dead.”
  • Rating: 5
  • Published in: January 2013
  • Read in: November 2020

Book Review: Revenge by Yōko Ogawa

A writer moves into a new apartment to discover that her widowed landlady grows carrots mysteriously shaped like hands, a woman becomes obsessed with death after suffering a heartbreaking tragedy, a jealous woman seeks revenge on her lover, a man curates antiques at a museum of torture. The lives of these characters all subtly intertwine in eleven chilling tales.

I give Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales 5/5 stars. This collection contains a little bit of everything I love. It’s dark, Gothic, heartbreaking, melancholic, terrifying at times, and mysterious.

I knew from the first story that I was going to devour this book. Titled so unsuspectingly, Afternoon at The Bakery tells the story of a woman who goes into town to a bakery to buy some strawberry shortcakes for her son’s birthday. While she waits to be served, she strikes up a conversation with another woman in which she reveals her devastating loss with this one heart-wrenching piece of dialogue:

“I’m buying them for my son. Today is his birthday.”

“Really? Well, I hope it’s a happy one. How old is he?”

“Six. He’ll always be six. He’s dead.”

The writing was so simple, yet I had to pause and let it sink in for a minute. I remember thinking that I wish I could convey grief and loss in such a way in my own writing. What follows this brief conversation are the effects of such a loss on the mind and relationships.

Another favourite of mine titled Lab Coats was, again, a seemingly normal account of a day at the office (in this case a hospital), until the main character reveals her brutal revenge on her lover to a colleague in a very matter of fact way. Yōko Ogawa has this genius way of turning a very ordinary, everyday occurrence into an unnerving, sinister situation, and I am captivated by it. Aside from this, I loved the way she wrote what appeared to be disconnected stories, but connected them to each other so subtly. I found myself so excited when I got that little detail in each story that related to a previous one.

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales is a beautiful, haunting representation of loss, obsession, grief, jealousy, and of course, revenge, and I know that this is a book I will revisit more than once.

Buy the book on Amazon.